The Case of the Genealogical “Nuts” …

This story was written by my mother, Shirley Olene, as part of her Shirley’s Second Sampler column in the  Echoes (senior citizen) publication (March 1990). Keep in mind that this story was written almost 30 years ago and research methods have changed – to some extent – because they are available electronically. The records you need to review have not changed. What you will find when doing genealogy is a story. There is always an interesting story or stories. Every family has a story worth telling.


Once upon a time (actually January 20, 1990) , three normally quite same people set out on an expedition in search of genealogical information.

Following a well-prepared map and written instructions (and only missing the location of a dark blue house), they easily came to their destination — a beautiful cabin situated on Long Lake, north of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin.

Waiting to greet them was a fourth woman, an expert on the Fuecker/Fadden connection (to which they all belong), who just happens to be the librarian for the Minnesota Genealogical Society (have to brag a little), besides being a second cousin to the above mentioned trio (okay, okay, so one is a second cousin, once removed).

Upon entering her home, it became very apparent that the fourth person, hereafter referred to as ‘Ozzie,’ had anticipated a multitude of questions for there were stacks of documents and files of data o the kitchen counter, the buffet and the floor. The dining room table was cleared and out came the notebooks and pens with which the visitors had armed themselves. And the chatter began.


Pens began to move rapidly. Obituaries were checked (an excellent source of information or confirmation of facts). Newspaper clippings (or copies thereof) were reviewed, as were military records and “intention to become a citizen” documents.


Stories of our ancestors were revealed, some of which could best be described as “skeletons in the closet.” For instance, there was the one about a notorious horse thief, one Dick Fadden. As reported in the Grainery Gazetter (and originally noted in the Red River Star, Moorhead, Minnesota; August 3, 1872), this man was quite adept at avoiding his captors and was still at large when the item was published. Another concerned brothers, Aaron and John Fadden(s) and a couple of their friends who were captured at Crookston May 5, 1904 and who admitted that they had robbed stores in Rockville and Cold Spring and also the post office at Rockville. (This item was found in the History of Stearns County Minnesota, Volume II, 1915.)

We heard about on John Fadden, a sloopmaster from the Eastward, who was found frozen to death one and one-half miles from his ship on Cape Cod on March 24, 1755.

I heard again the story of how my Uncle George, age 4, was accidentally shot to death by his brother, age 7, while playing with a gun.

All present reacted with glee and delight at the enthusiasm of the youngest member of the group who is just starting on the never-ending journey of genealogical research.

“Lunch is ready,” so notebooks and pens were temporarily laid aside. The conversation was still basically “genealogical,” with questions flying and clarifications sought.

I should mention at this point that Ozzie’s very patient and understanding husband, Jerry, was carefully avoiding us, though he did check in from his basement vantage point from time to time to see what ‘condition’ we were in.

Digging for information only brought on more digging. Soon out came the cameras (another family condition) to record the scene (both inside and out).


At this point, don’t ask who is related to whom. There will have to be a good deal of compilation of facts before we get everything straight, if we ever do.

Perhaps you don’t know anyone afflicted with this particular malady, but those of you who are will know whereof I speak.

After a couple of hours more, notebooks closed, but it took another two hours or so of talk before the intrepid trio reluctantly set their course for home, after just one more cup of coffee for the road.

If you see any of these glassy-eyed people, do not disturb but point them in the direction of the nearest bed – and, PLEASE, no more coffee!!

And Ozzie poured. 


I came across this article as I was de-cluttering again today. And, yes, I was one of those ‘nuts.’ It’s been 28 years and I am still doing genealogical research – hoping to put my years of research together. But, yet, there is always more to find. I recently found that my seven-time great-grandfather murdered my seven-time great-grandmother and may have escaped to England before he could be put in prison!!! I must pursue this story!!


Shirley Fadden Olene (1921-2001) was a columnist for the Princeton Union Eagle (Princeton, MN) – with her column titled Shirley’s Sampler and later for the Senior Federation Echoes publication (MN) – with her column titled Shirley’s Second Sampler. She also worked for ECM as a proof reader and as a correspondent for the St. Cloud Times.


Thanks for reading!! I hope you return. 






How common are you ? It’s all in the name …

Years ago, when the internet was relatively new, I found a list of the most common names in the United States. At that time, my last name (by marriage – Braun) was relatively high on the list – meaning it was relatively common. Recently, I found an article that features a link where you can actually search by name – far easier than reading through a list of several thousand names. I immediately started searching.

According to this list, Braun is now ranked #1,102 or, in another measure, there are about 12 Brauns for every 100,000 people in the United States.  I should note that Braun is actually the german language version of Brown. Next I checked for Brown. The Brown name ranks #4 with 487 Browns per 100,000 and therefore is very common.

Next I checked the other ancestral name on the Braun side of the family – Becker. (I am just using our parents last names.) It turns out that Becker is far more common than Braun. It ranks #357 with about 30 Beckers for every 100,000 U. S. residents.

That’s a brief look at the paternal side of the family.

Next I tried my side of the family – the surnames for my parents. The names are Fadden and Olene.

Fadden – which is the Americanized version of McFadden, McFadyen, McPhaidin,  ranks #18,286  or .5 (1/2 person) Fadden for every 100,000. The name Olene is not ranked – because the search does not rank those names for which there are less than 100 occurrences. However, Olene was originally ‘Olin’ when they immigrated from Sweden but was subsequently spelled differently. A search for Olin shows that is its ranked #7950 or 1.41 for every 100,000 people.

So, with a very basic first analysis, my husband’s family surnames are far more common than those on my side of the family. However, you can also carry this to the next generation back – the grandparent’s names. At least one of those names on my side of the family – Moody – ranks #519 or 22 out of every 100,000 – and is fairly common.

Of course, you could take this even further and find similar listings for the names in their country of origin. I haven’t found those lists … yet.

If you want to have some fun you can search this list HERE.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will return.

Lost in the past … and loving it

Recently I spent the better part of the day looking through old photo albums and totes of photos – in search of those to take to the cousins weekend getaway. As I was searching, I found an envelope marked ‘Grandma’s letters for May 5 column.’  The handwriting on the envelope was my mother’s. For many years, she wrote a weekly column in the Princeton Union Eagle titled ‘Shirley’s Sampler.’ The envelope was stuffed full of old letters. Curiosity got the better of me so I went to my desk, sat down, and started reading through the letters. Soon, I was lost in the past …

“Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” Bryant H. McGill

The handwritten letters were from my great-grandmother Cora Lamoreaux Bullis. Some of the letters are to her sister Edith Schussler and some to her ‘friend’ – likely her future husband Hiram (yet to be verified). I cannot adequately describe the amazing feeling reading Cora’s words – and getting a glimpse into her life. You see, Cora died in 1902, on her birthday, at the young age of 25, only five weeks after the birth of my grandmother Edythe Elizabeth Bullis (Beth). At that time, there wasn’t much to be done for a ruptured appendix.

cora color picmonkey.jpg

I kept reading until I had read through all of the letters in the envelope – 20 of them. Many of the letters include sketches on the top page of the letter, indicating Cora’s artistic ability. Amazingly, one of the letters talks about the birth of my grandmother and includes a small lock of her dark hair. Cora further explains to her sister that the baby will be named after her. How proud she must have been. One of my next projects will be to transcribe those letters – perhaps for a story book about Cora.


But, of course, the story doesn’t end here. I went online and was soon looking at information about my great grandfather’s second and third wife – and then my great grandparents – and on and on. And so the day soon disappeared …

About twenty years ago, I wrote a history report on the Bullis-Fadden relatives for an assignment at St. Cloud State University. I haven’t read that report in years so I will go back and be reminded of my earlier research. A lot has changed, however, in those 20 years.There if far more access to historical information. A quick online search of newspapers yielded several interesting stories. I connected online with a person on and now have additional photos  – including one of Great Grandmother Cora. Then I connected with my youngest brother and guess what – he had Cora’s wedding picture! (The photo shown above is a crop of that photo.) And, I have several totes of old photos from my mother – yet to be identified. So, the investigation and research goes on … I may be ever ‘lost in the past’ and loving it.

Thanks for reading!